Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A peaceful death for a famous scientist

Sir William Perkin (1838-1907) became famous for (accidentally) discovering the first organic dye, mauveine and then producing it in industrial proportions.
[This is of some interest to me because as some of my research involves using quantum physics to understand why such dyes have the colour that they do and how they can be used in LED's and solar cells...]

I was just browsing in the U. Washington bookstore [I am giving a theoretical chemistry seminar there tomorrow] and stumbled across a nice book,
Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color that Changed the World, by Simon Garfield (Faber, 2000).

Perkin was a Christian, active in a Wembley Anglican parish church and a generous supporter of various educational and mission activities. [In the 1860s Perkin started an inter-denominational church for his German workers in an old barn. In 1875 he paid for this to be replaced by a hall in Harrow Road, the New Hall].

Pages 136-137 describes Perkin on his death bed, aged 67:
Near the end, Lady Perkin told her husband that they must be separated for a time. According to The Christian newsletter, his reply was: 'May you have much of the joy of the Lord.' An attendant then told him, `Sir William, you will soon hear the "Well done, good and faithful servant"' Perkin observed: "The children are in Sunday School. Give them my love, and tell them always to trust Jesus.' He then let out the first verse of the hymn `When I Survey the Wondrous Cross', and when he reached the last line, 'And pour contempt on all my pride', he said, 'Proud? Who could be proud?'

No comments:

Post a Comment